Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

April 18, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
Psalm 4:2, 4, 7-9
1 John 2:1-5a
Luke 24:35-48

While the disciples from the road to Emmaus were describing how they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, Jesus suddenly appears among them and speaks to them the words, “Peace be with you.” The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus showed them His wounds and told them to touch Him to prove He was not a ghost. He even asked them for something to eat.

The fear and amazement of the disciples was the fact that Jesus had really been raised in His body, even though He had told them this would happen. This was the Jesus who had called them, lived with them, taught them, befriended them, and died for them, yet all the Gospels speak about the difficulty of recognizing Jesus. Something had changed about Him, in addition to the fact that He was not limited by the physical materiality of His body. He would appear out of nowhere, pass through walls and closed doors, and even the look of His wounds had changed in their being glorified.

What happens to us after death has fascinated and puzzled human communities throughout history. Some pagans, especially the ancient Greeks, argued persuasively that the human soul was immortal. But we are not just souls, we are living and embodied spirits with sensations, memories, intelligence, gender, relationships, and commitments. We cannot talk about personal immortality if our bodies are not part of the picture. If only our souls were to exist, we would be incomplete.

The stories of the Resurrection are important to teach us not only what will happen to us after death, they tell us about how we should live our lives now and how we should live our lives before death. The Resurrection of Christ offers each and all of us eternal life, body and soul — not simply an afterlife involving only the soul. We will be alive in our glorified and resurrected bodies, freed from their organic, material limitations and disabilities. We will be more fully our true selves than we are able to be now in this world fallen and wounded by sin. We will be most truly ourselves by how we receive love now and offer love now. We cannot love without our bodies. This is what our brothers and sisters in the faith testified to as they experienced the Risen Lord.

The Son of the Father, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became fully human in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to show us that God wants us to know and be touched by Him as human beings who have a nature that is constituted by the integral unity of a material body freely controlled by a spiritual soul. This is what defines us as human beings created by God in His image and likeness and redeemed by God through the Incarnation.

We know through revelation that God gives life. We know through revelation that God lovingly created us in His image and likeness — distinguishing us from all other created beings, such as animals and angels. We know through faith and reason that unlike angels, human beings can share in God’s loving act of creating other human beings by an act of a man and a woman performed with their distinct and respective bodies. We know through faith and reason that, unlike in the case of animals, such acts involve intelligent freedom and not simply instinct and biological drives. This distinguishes human procreation from animal reproduction.

The devil, who owes his angelic nature to the love of God who created him, the love that he rebelliously rejects — attacks human beings made in God’s image and likeness. The devil directs these attacks against the engendered human body which he does not have and against the capacity to love and to procreate, which he also does not have. Thus, direct attempts to manipulate the free and loving human acts designed by God to be between one man and one woman for the purpose of marital love and the procreation of new human life mar with ingratitude the image and likeness of God — the true God whom the devil rejects and hates. This also holds true regarding a current political rage that attempts to respond to the psychological suffering of gender dysphoria with the promotion of an ideology that would involve the pharmaceutical and surgical mutilation of human beings as young as seven years of age. We must have no share in this evil.

The peace that Christ offered His gathered disciples in His appearance to them as recorded in the Gospel is the same peace that He offers us gathered here today. It is the peace of His Resurrection that we as human beings are redeemed by the risen and glorified humanity of Jesus Christ. This redemption is complete and includes our bodies and our souls. 

What we learn about the Resurrection from the four Gospels is important even as we live our lives now. If we are incomplete without body and soul, then we need to be reminded that both are necessary to experience God now and live His love in this world. Our human experiences involving our bodies and souls are experiences of wonder, amazement, joy, as well as sorrow, suffering, and loneliness. They are ways that the Holy Spirit touches us and draws us into God’s life. As Saint John indicates in our second reading for today, they provide us with the conditions needed for us “to know Him by keeping His commandments and being faithful to His word that the love of God be perfected in us.” Our share in eternal life begins today by how we do that in our shared and loving experience as baptized men and women who consume the Eucharist and thereby compose the Body of Christ, the true Church of Jesus Christ who is risen from the dead.

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